ARCADIA, Calif., Nov. 4 (UPI) -- At least a half dozen horses had a chance to make their case for Horse of the Year honors during the weekend's Breeders' Cup World Championship at Santa Anita. But, when the smoke had cleared, only Bricks and Mortar got the job done.
There undoubtedly will be support for a few other outstanding horses whose stellar years couldn't quite extend to a victory in the big moment. But Bricks and Mortar would seem to have built a solid case for his candidacy with a gutsy victory in the $4 million Longines Turf.
The same can't be said for any of the 2-year-olds who came to the Breeders' Cup looking for a leg up toward the 2020 Kentucky Derby in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, which normally produces an early favorite for the Run for the Roses.
Not this year.
Here's how it unfolded, with the implications, and then a look at the rest of the weekend racing around the globe:
Bricks and Mortar, a 5-year-old son of Giant's Causeway, ran his record to 6-for-6 when he edged long shot United in Sunday's Breeders' Cup Turf. The Chad Brown trainee was going 1 1/2 miles for the first time off a layoff of two and a half months since winning the Grade I Arlington Million. He and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. also had to overcome some traffic problems to get the job done.
"What an awesome horse," Brown said, and the Eclipse Award voters seem certain to agree, even though turf specialists almost never get top honors in the United States.
Two others who might have swayed the voters -- Midnight Bisou and Omaha Beach, both went down to defeat Saturday as even-money favorites. Midnight Bisou finished second to Blue Prize in the $2 million Longines Distaff and Omaha Beach was second behind front-running long shot Spun to Run in the $1 million Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile.
Mitole won the $2 million TVG Sprint, his fourth Grade I win of the year at distances from 6 furlongs to 1 mile. Had Bricks and Mortar fumbled, he might have been crowned although sprinters get scarcely more Horse of the Year consideration than turf specialists.
Steve Asmussen, who trains both Mitole and Midnight Bisou, was asked after Mitole's win -- but before Midnight Bisou's defeat -- if Mitole should be Horse of the Year.
"That is an unbelievably loaded question with me looking at my watch to go saddle another candidate for it," he said. "My kids still need to go through college. I'm not sticking my neck out there yet." In the event, the question proved moot.
So, all hail Bricks and Mortar, who is headed to a stud career in Japan.
But if the weekend crowned a Horse of the Year, it certainly did not produce a leading candidate for the 2020 Kentucky Derby.
The $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile was billed as a showdown between Dennis' Moment, a Kentucky-based colt trained by Dale Romans, who has never won the Run for the Roses, and California sensation Eight Rings, trained by Bob Baffert, who has saddled five Derby winners. Scabbard looked to be a live long shot but, whichever way things went, the winner should be on the Road to the Roses.
That all changed as Dennis's Moment stumbled badly leaving the inside gate. By the time he had recovered, he had lost any chance and the entire complexion of the race changed. Dennis's Moment, in fact ran last the whole way around the Santa Anita course as 45-1 chance Storm the Court inherited the lead and then held off 25-1 long shot Anneau d'Or with Wrecking Crew third at 40-1. You didn't have it, so you don't want to know what a winning 50-cent trifecta ticket paid. (But it was $1,965.25).
Storm the Court entered the Juvenile as the winner of only one previous race and finished third in the Grade I American Pharoah in his previous start, 8 1/4 lengths behind the winner, Eight Rings. Eight Rings, meanwhile, prompted the pace made by Storm the Court in the Juvenile, tired and finished sixth.
So, what do we see looking forward to the first Saturday in May?
Storm the Court certainly moves up in the Derby picture. He earned 20 points on the Churchill Downs "Road to the Kentucky Derby" scoreboard and trainer Peter Eurton said he and the owners are aware of that.
"I'm thinking we probably would give it some thought," Eurton said. "That's everybody's dream ... It's always in the back of your mind and it would be a whole lot of fun, I'm sure."
Eight Rings' performance will need an explanation.
"He didn't show up," Baffert said. "That's not like him. I thought he was training really well but for some reason he just didn't show up today. He was perfect, he broke beautifully, he was right there. I always blame myself. Maybe I missed something but I thought he was ready. Everything was going great until the real race started. He didn't show up."
He said the colt may get another chance in the Grade II Los Alamitos Futurity Dec. 7.
But Romans remains firmly behind Dennis' Moment, who survived the stumble without apparent injury.
"It's about as bad a thing as I've had in my career," said Romans, who grew up in the shadow of Churchill Downs' twin spires. "But when I saw him come back healthy, let's just say it's a kick in the gut ... Win, lose or draw, all you want is a fair shake. He just had no chance. You know, it happens. It could have been so much worse, that's the good thing. The fact that we lost the biggest race in his life -- so far -- for a championship, it's bad. But he'll be back."
It's six months until the Kentucky Derby and there will be plenty of other contenders popping up. For example, note the performance of Independence Hall Sunday at Aqueduct (see below).
As usual, there was plenty of other good racing going on around the globe while much attention was focused on the big deal on the West Coast. Here's a brief rundown:
Flagstaff and Roadster hooked up in a tight stretch battle in Saturday's $100,000 Damascus Stakes with the former, under Victor Espinoza, hanging on gamely for the narrow win. Extra Hope was third, getting past the tiring pacesetter, Comical Ghost. Only four went to the post after the late scratch of Horse Greedy. Flagstaff, a 5-year-old Speightstown gelding, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.36, posting his first stakes win. He finished third behind Omaha Beach in his previous outing, the Grade I Santa Anita Sprint Championship.
Just Grazed Me surged to the lead in the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Senator Ken Maddy Stakes for fillies and mares and ran on strongly to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Apache Princess. Ippodamia's Girl finished third. Just Grazed Me, a 4-year-old daughter of Grazen, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:02.94 with Geovanni Franco in the irons. It was her third straight win and followed a score in the California Distaff for state-breds in her previous start.
Mo Forza, fresh off a maiden win little more than a month earlier, romped home and easy winner in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Qatar Twilight Derby. After stalking the pace, the Uncle Mo colt found another gear in the lane and wasn't troubled thereafter. Succeedandsurpass was second, edging Neptune's Storm. Mo Forza, with Joel Rosario up, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:46.18.
Itsinthepost raced right behind the early leaders in Friday's $200,000 Grade II Marathon Stakes, moved to the lead on the third turn and plugged on gamely down the stretch to post a narrow victory over Zestful. American Tattoo was third and the favorite, Campaign, bore out around the second turn and was eased to the finish. Itsinthepost, a 7-year-old, French-bred gelding by American Post, covered the 1 3/4 miles in 3:03.95 with Drayden Van Dyke riding for trainer Jeff Mullins. "I was just hoping everyone had enough energy to finish," said owner Tim Cohen.
Been Studying Her kicked clear in the stretch run to take Friday's $200,000 Golden State Juvenile Fillies by a comfortable 3 1/4 lengths under Mike Smith. The Fast Anna filly finished 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:25.25. She won her first two career starts, then finished a fading fourth in the Grade I Chandelier when tackling 1 1/16 miles.
Tap Back got the early lead in Friday's $200,000 Golden State Juvenile and cleared in the final furlong, winning by 6 lengths from the favorite, Cali Dude. Papster was third at a big price. Tap Back, a colt by the Brazilian-bred sire Einstein, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:24.98. Victor Espinoza had the winning ride for trainer Jeff Bonde. Tap Back won his career debut at Del Mar Aug. 16, then finished third and fourth in state-bred stakes at Del Mar and Los Alamitos.
In Thursday's feature, Ronald R rallied from last of nine, then outfinished Ritzy A.P. to post a 1/2-length win in the $70,000 Lure Stakes. The favorite, River Boyne, was another 3/4 length back in third. Ronald R, a 5-year-old, Irish-bred gelding by Nathaniel, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.18 with Drayden Van Dyke in the irons.
And as things calmed down Sunday, Toinette stalked the pace in the $200,000 Goldikova Stakes for fillies and mares, took the lead when asked by jockey Flavien Prat and cleared the field en route to a 2 1/4-lengths victory. Simply Breathless was second, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Richmond Avenue. Toinette, a 4-year-old daughter of Scat Daddy, finished 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.38.
Independence Hall pressed the pace in Sunday's $150,000 Grade III Nashua Stakes for 2-year-olds, opened up at the top of the stretch and drew off to win by 12 1/4 lengths. Meru and Chase Tracker were second and third as Independence Hall completed 1 mile on a fast track in 1:34.66. Jose Ortiz rode the Constitution colt for trainer Mike Trombetta. He won at first asking at Parx Racing Sept. 21 in his only previous start.
"I wouldn't imagine that any of my horses could do that," said a stunned Trombetta. "For him to come up and run this well, I don't have words for it." Asked about the $250,000 Grade II Remsen over the same track Dec. 7 -- a Kentucky Derby points race -- Trombetta said, "We'll see how he is and talk to the owners and come up with a plan for him. This is a great conversation to have. This was a step in the right direction."
And Ortiz added: " I don't think any other 2-year-old out there can kick like him. He seems special."
Also on the Sunday card, Empressof the Nile rallied from far back to win the $125,000 Zagora Stakes for fillies and mares by 1/2 length over fellow closer Homeland Security. Seven others were close behind in a blanket finish. Empressof the Nile, a 5-year-old mare by Pioneerof the Nile, ran 1 1/2 miles on good turf in 2:33.43 with Irad Ortiz Jr. back from a successful Breeders' Cup weekend to take the mount.
Golden Award stalked the pace in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Turnback the Alarm Handicap for fillies and mares, advanced to take a daylight lead in the stretch run and held on to score by 3/4 length over Another Broad. Moonlit Garden was third, 9 lengths farther up the track. Crimson Frost fell shortly after the start, causing Bellera to lose her rider. Both horses were caught safely. Golden Award, a 4-year-old Medaglia d'Oro filly, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:49.46 with Junior Alvarado up.
Maedean left five rivals well in her wake in the stretch run of Friday's $150,000 Tempted Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, winning off by 5 1/2 lengths. Power Move was second. Vast finished third but was set down to fourth, awarding show money to Ankle Monitor. Maedean, a Tapit filly, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.75 with Luis Saez in the irons. She's going to get better going further," said winning trainer Mark Hennig. "If you watch her train in the morning, she just never gets tired. It's encouraging going forward."
Mia Mischief, the odds-on favorite, stormed to the lead in the stretch run of Friday's $120,000 Dream Supreme Stakes for fillies and mares and ran on to win by 5 lengths over Meadow Dance. Petty Greeley was another 1/2 length back in third. Mia Mischief, a 4-year-old daughter of Into Mischief, got 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.50 with Julien Leparoux riding.
Recruiting Ready led from the get go in Saturday's $120,000 Bet on Sunshine Stakes and won by 3 3/4 lengths, ridden out by Corey Lanerie. The 5-year-old son of Algorithms finished 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.81. Do Share and Wilbo both launched belated rallies to finish second and third.
Sally's Curlin came from last of six to win Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Chilukki Stakes for fillies and mares by 3/4 length from Mylady Curlin. The early leader, Cairenn, finished third. Sally's Curlin, a 3-year-old daughter of Curlin, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.60 under Lanerie.
Special Forces had only one rival beaten halfway home in Sunday's $210,000 (Canadian) Autumn Stakes, angled out a bit on the turn to find room and got by to win by 3/4 length over Mr Ritz. Cooler Mike was third. Special Forces, a 4-year-old Candy Ride gelding, finished 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:42.57 with Eurico Da Silva up.
New York Groove shot clear in the stretch run of Sunday's $120,000 (Canadian) Glorious Song Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, winning by 4 1/2 lengths from Mom's Red Lipstick. Tortuga was another 3/4 length back in third. New York Groove, a Verrazano filly, finished 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:22.56 for jockey Pablo Morales.
Lift Up started last of nine in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Grade III Maple Leaf Stakes for fillies and mares, had to deal with a significant traffic jam and still managed to get up to win by 1 1/4 lengths. She's the Berries finished second, a nose in front of the pacesetter, Theodora B. Lift Up, a 5-year-old Ghostzapper mare out of the Dynaformer mare Dynamic Cat, ran 1 1/4 miles on the all-weather track in 2:04.23 with Patrick Husbands in the irons.
Itsarollofthedice came up sevens in the stretch run of Friday's $55,000 Showtime Deb Stakes for Illinois-bred 2-year-old fillies, rallying from mid-pack to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Freedom Lass. War Colors reported third. Itsarollofthedice, a daughter of Itsmyluckyday, ran 6 furlongs on a muddy track in 1:11.19 with Jose Lopez up.
Jungle Runner did his best running in the final furlong of Friday's $110,000 Clever Trevor Stakes for 2-year-olds, edging away to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Something Super was second, 3 lengths to the good of Tale Twister. Jungle Runner, a Kentucky-bred colt by Candy Ride, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:24.88 with Ramon Vazzquez at the controls.
Boundtobebad bounded out to the lead in Saturday's $65,000 West Virginia Futurity for state-bred 2-year-olds and never looked back, winning by 11 lengths. Henry Standingbear was best of the rest, 1 1/2 lengths to the good of Candyforacause. Boundtobebad, a filly by Windsor Castle, ran 7 furlongs in 1:27.35 over a fast track for jockey Christian Hiraldo.
Mugaritz set a pressured pace in Saturday's $65,000 Joseph T. Grace Stakes, put away the first rival, Sixes, then survived the bid of Camino Del Paraiso by just a neck. Sixes salvaged third. Mugaritz, a 4-year-old Dialed In gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.27 under Ricardo Gonzalez.
Gulfstream Park West
Ionic stalked the two early leaders in Saturday's $75,000 Cellars Shriaz Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, moved into contention a furlong out and held off a fast-closing Isla Road for a 1/2-length victory. La Australiana was third, another 1 3/4 lengths back. Ionic, a City Zip filly, zipped 1 mile on firm turf in 1:37.55 for jockey Edgard Zayas.
Stirling Drive surged to a big lead midway through Saturday's $75,000 Showing Up Stakes for 3-year-old, then was under an all-out drive to hang on and win by a head over The Black Album. Scraps also put in a late bid, finishing third. Stirling Drive, a Verrazano gelding, got 1 mile on the grass in 1:37.71. Samy Camacho rode.
On the international front:
Tuesday it's the Group 1 Melbourne Cup, "The Race That Stops a Nation." As it has for several years now, the race also has attracted the attention of the rest of the world and this year's field is replete with international raiders. Check back for the results.
Warning sat just off the early pace in Saturday's Group 1 Victoria Derby at Flemington, circled the leaders to take the point 400 meters out and quickly put doubts to rest, winning by 3 1/4 lengths from Southern Moon with Soul Patch third and the favorite, Shadow Hero, fifth. Warning, a Kentucky-bred Declaration of War gelding, finished the 2,500 meters in 2:40.83 over soft going and notched his second win from seven starts for trainer Anthony Freedman.
On the same program, Exceedance rallied late to mow down the favorite, Bivouac, by 1/2 length in the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes at 1,200 meters. Libertini was a non-threatening third. Exceedance, a 3-year-old colt by Exceed and Excel, finished in 1:09.78 with Dwayne Dunn.
The final Group 1 event of the English flat racing season -- and the first-ever British Group 1 run over an all-weather track -- went to the Andrew Balding-trained Kameko, who showed his heels to the others in Friday evening's Vertem Futurity Trophy at Newcastle. The race was postponed and moved from Doncaster last week because that turf course was waterlogged.
Kameko, a Kentucky-bred colt by Kitten's Joy, romped home first by 3 3/4 lengths, improving his record to two wins and two seconds from four starts. He was trailed home by a trio of Coolmore contenders trained by Aidan O'Brien -- Innisfree, Year Of The Tiger and Mogul. The favorite, Kinross, was fifth.
The race, formerly the Racing Post Trophy, normally would be a good indicator for the following year's Classics. The switch from turf to the Newcastle Tapeta, however, leaves that up in the air although some British bookmakers slashed his Derby odds to near-on single digits.
"We will have to discuss next year and it will depend on how far he can stay," Balding said. "I am thrilled he is a Group 1 winner as a 2-year-old."
There are two Fast-Track Qualifiers to report from the All-Weather Championships program:
Surrounding, a 6-year-old mare by Lilbourne Lad, took down Friday's Listed Al Basti Equiworld Irish EBF Cooley Fillies Stakes at Dundalk, running smoothly all the way to a 2 3/4-lengths victory over Crochet. It was her second straight victory in the event and earned a spot in the Ladbrokes Fillies & Mares Championship on All-Weather Championships Finals Day, Good Friday next, at Lingfield Park. Surrounding was a Group 3 winner earlier in the season. "She has done it nicely," said winning rider Ronan Whelan, "and I think there might be a plan to take her to Dubai over the winter so tonight was a nice stepping stone."
The All-Weather Championships have developed a strong connection with the Dubai World Cup Carnival over the past few years.
Scentasia landed Tuesday's Fast-Track Qualifier at Lingfield Park, also assuring the 3-year-old Cape Cross filly a spot in the Fillies & Mares Championship. One of three runners in the race for trainer John Gosden, jockey David Egan made an early move turning into the straight and his filly ran on to win by 2 lengths from Chaleur and her own stablemate, She's Got You. "They said that she will get 10 furlongs next year, so I was happy just to let her roll along before the bend," Egan said. "I think I got her going earlier than the rest of them did and she kept going to the line."